Resources

SBAM's Business Next radio show is expanding! Hear it Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 10 a.m. on MichiganBusinessNetwork.com starting July 4

MichiganBusinessNetwork.comBusiness Next is now part of the new MichiganBusinessNetwork.com Internet radio network. Hear great tips and ideas for growing your business on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. beginning July 4. (Repeated at 3 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.)

Tune in to MichiganBusinessNetwork.com from your PC or mobile device and get the advice you need to be a successful entrepreneur!

“The Best of Business Next” will air on TalkLansing.net at 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

Upcoming shows:

July 4
Matt Harlow, director of account services for Perry Ballard Inc., explains how to use Google Adwords to expand sales.

July 6
Looking to add jobs? HR expert Toni Talbot tells us how to find the best workers to grow your business.

July 8
John Westra of NuWave Technology Partners explains how to put together a technology plan for your small business.


Balancing Life and Social Media Usage

By Nipa Shah, president of Online Marketing Simplified. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.

As if it wasn’t difficult enough to balance work-life and family, now we have to balance work-life, family, and social networking. We are constantly “twitching” to share where we are, what we are doing, what we plan to do, etc. to our network.

But all this sharing is creating havoc in many lives. People are getting fired for posting inappropriate information. We hear of robberies stemming from status updates announcing vacation plans. And although reports about Facebook causing divorces and death announcements made online through Twitter may be laughable to some of us, the reality is that this is the world we live in today.

As business owners, we find ourselves in even more of a quandary. Do we focus on growing the business or do we spend time online, building larger networks to grow our visibility and branding?

Well, ideally, businesses should rely on marketing professionals to manage their social properties so that it can be done right and done in a comprehensive manner to generate the desired results. However, as a business owner, if you are in a chicken or an egg situation of whether to invest the money or the time doing it yourself, here are some baby steps to help you get started:

  • Create your personalized profile on no more than two or three social networks. I recommend two. You can choose from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Youtube.
  • Download Twitter and Facebook on your smart-phone (I assume you have a smart-phone. If not, get one pronto).
  • Until you get into the habit of it, put down a recurring event on your calendar to post at least once or twice a day on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Make your posts count. It’s okay to announce, “I’m at Starbucks” of course. But what’s the value of it? Why not post “Going to Starbucks to meet a prospective client” or “Getting coffee to wake me up before I get to work, anyone else feel like I do” is so much more interactive and enables engagement from others.
  • Create Google alerts for news items that are interesting and relevant to your business. Post those with a comment and you benefit by sharing ready-to-use content with others.
  • If sharing photos and videos, use the many tools that are available to do this sharing across multiple platforms through one single post.
  • Stay connected regularly through smartphones to maintain the momentum.
Out of sight is out of mind when it comes to online marketing. Social networking is here to stay. Sooner or later, you’ll have to get familiar and engaged online. But it doesn’t have to be at the expense of family and business. Leverage smart-phones, apps, and other tools to remain connected without sacrificing too much of your family or business time.

SBAM Honors Legislative Leaders, Introduces New Officers and Board Members at 42nd SBAM Annual Meeting in East Lansing

The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) at its June 23 annual meeting and networking luncheon in East Lansing presented its Legislator of the Year award to two lawmakers: House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville. SBAM President and CEO Rob Fowler cited the legislators’ consistent support for small business issues and, in particular, their leadership in passage of business tax reform.

Yan Ness, owner of Online Tech, Inc., of Ann Arbor, was recognized by SBAM as its Advocate of the Year.

Jaclyn Trop, business reporter for The Detroit News, was honored as Communicator of the Year.

Yan Ness, owner of Online Tech of Ann Arbor, was introduced as SBAM’s 2011-2012 Chair. Also introduced were Vice Chair David Rhoa - Lake Michigan Mailers, Kalamazoo; Second Vice Chair Bob Fish - BIGGBY COFFEE, Lansing; Secretary  Bonnie Alfonso - Alfie - Logo Gear for Work & Play, Traverse City; Treasurer Guy Richardson - Advance HR, Lansing; and Immediate Past Chair, Cynthia Kay - Cynthia Kay & Co. Media Productions, Grand Rapids.

Newly named to the SBAM Board of Directors for two-year terms were Terry Applegate - Applegate Insulation, Webberville; Beth Franklin Cohen - Franklin Iron & Metal Co., Battle Creek; Janice DuMouchelle - Waste & Recycling Solutions, Inc., Grosse Pointe Farms; David Fant - Market Mapping Plus, Kentwood; Bob Spence - Spence Brothers, Traverse City and Scott White - VAST, Marquette.


The Mobile Security Risk

By John Westra, Director of NuWave Government Solutions. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.

DANGER!!! Unsecured mobile devices can result in identity theft, data loss and personal embarrassment! Although we may never see a warning label like this on the packaging of our next smart phone or tablet computer, the risk is still very real!

These mobile computing and communication devices are in reality very powerful small computers. Most of these devices have more processing and storage capacity than the first personal computers many of us owned. The response by software vendors has been equally amazing and there are now tens of thousands of mobile applications to choose from; everything from games like Angry Birds to social media, personal development, health management and even mobile banking. In addition to their advanced computing capabilities, these devices come equipped with mobile broadband and/or WiFi communications and GPS functionality that turns them into always-connected, geo-locatable data conduits.

It’s the combination of lots of data, much of it personal in nature, a built-in communications channel to the outside world and the high value of the hardware itself that is turning mobile devices into a prime target for thieves. The worst part is you don’t even have to have your physical device stolen to be robbed!

There is a growing threat from malicious applications or simply poorly written software. These apps can intentionally or by accident, reveal personal and business information such as phone numbers, banking information, health information or whatever other information is stored on the device.

How Risky are Mobile Devices?
To judge the risk you face from this type of data loss, imagine all of the data on your mobile device being printed on sheets of paper and distributed to A) known criminals intent on stealing your identity and any money they can get their hands on or B) the members of your church, business or social club? If the thought of having all of your information distributed like this doesn’t bother you, you probably don’t need to read any further. However, if reading this paragraph made your mouth drop open and created a sudden feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach, read on to find out what you can do to minimize your risks.

Physical Security
This is the easiest and yet most challenging problem for many people to solve. After all, who hasn’t left their cell phone somewhere? Making a point to always put your cell phone back in its case, your pocket or purse is a good habit to keep it from getting lost. Conversely, never set your device down on a public table or counter, where it can be easily forgotten.

Keeping the Snoops Out
All modern mobile devices come with some type of time-out and password “lock” system. Like any other computing platform, you will want to use a password that is random and difficult to guess. If you are using a key-swipe style of password, don’t use an “L” or simple “/” swipe code. The good news is this will deter casual data snoopers. The bad news is it will take a dedicated cyber criminal all of about two minutes to bypass this minor annoyance and access your data.

Password Protection
It’s not just the data that’s on your mobile device that’s at risk if it gets stolen. Most people are now using their mobile devices to access a variety of business and personal online web content. If a criminal gains access to your mobile device and you’ve set up your mobile browser to remember passwords to those sites, it becomes a Pandora’s Box of badness.
To combat this particular risk, we encourage our clients to install a password security management app like LastPass (www.lastpass.com). This was one of the apps we reviewed in a previous article,

Innovation – Better is Always New; New Isn’t Always Better

New? You bet! Who (except marketing gurus and analytical chemists) would think changing Coke’s hundred-year formula for success would be sound strategy? And then give the new product the flagship brand name? New Coke? Was old Coke bad?

Was New Coke better? The market passed a harsh verdict on that.

Why did this “innovation” happen? Did the Coke brand people forget their product had a very loyal following -- more than caramel colored water with fizz? Certainly they thought Pepsi was just fizz water. Did they never eat in a restaurant that only served Pepsi products?

(Next time you’re in a Pepsi-only restaurant, ask for Coke and check the response: “Is Pepsi OK?” It immediately says we’re second best. Is it OK? IS IT OK?!?)

Any brand with an “is this OK?“ competitor should be working on so many other things than copying that competitor’s formula.

OK, we learn from mistakes and Coke has done a lot of things right – other flavors (cherry, vanilla, diet versions of each), juices and bottled water (natural and with additives). They defined themselves not as a cola company, but a beverage company – a broader mission that encourages product innovation.

Speaking of bottled water (which some call “dead” water because it has no trace nutrients like tap water), how did it become so successful? My grandmother would hoot at the idea of paying $8 a gallon for water ($1 for 16 oz.) when it’s free at any drinking fountain. (Gasoline’s “only” around $4 a gallon.) This IS innovative thinking.

It’s not the product; it’s the convenience. It meets a customer’s needs. Buy a bottle and take it with you. Sip it in class, on a bus, while you drive, in a meeting. Hydration is important to health, right? Bottled water makes hydration convenient.

As a small business person you have a need to define your business in the broadest benefit terms possible, and make sure you look at the non-tangible aspects of your product (package, delivery, timing, everything you can’t touch).

You may not have a separate marketing team and an engineering staff devoted to new product development – and that may be a plus as well as a minus. But you do have customers more than happy to tell you what they’d like to see added to (or subtracted from) your product. The good customers will tell you directly if you ask.

I once presented a pretty solid marketing plan (I thought) to a very honest client and then expectantly asked his reaction. “It’s a pretty good plan, but you didn’t put a bow on it,” took a lot of air out of my balloon. Then I realized he wanted my plan to look like I was proud of the work, that I cared enough to polish the format. The hurt changed to appreciation and a change in the way we presented future plans.

A word of caution in researching customers; don’t just say, “What do you want?” Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Ask them what problems they face in your area of their operation. What takes too much time or materials? What’s unused? What would they like the product to do that it doesn’t? What does it do now that it shouldn’t?

Look especially closely at the intangibles you provide that may not be appreciated – particularly the “everybody does that” feature. If none of your competitors offers or is highlighting it, then promoting that feature first makes you “the inventor.”

Back when beer first began to be delivered in bottles, Schlitz had the foresight to claim their bottles were cleaned with “live steam.” (Is there “dead steam”? Hot water?) The brewers said “everybody does that,” but the marketers recognized it as a “secret” and one that would overcome the public’s fear of getting beer in a dirty bottle. “Live steam” earned Schlitz a market share second only to Budweiser for years, because other brand

MessageMakers Latest SBAM Approved Partner

MessageMakersLansing-based MessageMakers is the latest Small Business Association of Michigan “Approved Partner.” MessageMakers will provide substantial discounts to SBAM members on video production services, corporate training programs and event planning.

MessageMakers offers a 20% discount on all equipment (video cameras, lights, staging, projectors, etc.) and operators/technicians included with them when SBAM member companies contract with MessageMakers for events, video and custom learning programs. This discount does not apply to supplies, facility rentals, hired entertainment, catering, registration services, music licensing, and other items from outside vendors.

“We are very pleased to add MessageMakers to our outstanding lineup of member-only services,” says Sarah Miller, SBAM’s Director of Marketing. “As an approved partner, they have been vetted by a committee of SBAM volunteer leaders to assure that their products and services are the best available to meet the needs of small business owners.”


SBAM lobbying prowess recognized by Capitol insiders

The Small Business Association of Michigan has been recognized by its peers as one of the top lobbying organizations in the state. The 2011 MIRS/EPIC-MRA Insider Survey sent, out to more than 1,000 lobbyists, staff members and legislators, revealed that SBAM tied for second place, behind the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, as the state’s best single-issue lobbying organization. SBAM’s Vice President Government Relations David Palsrok tied for fourth place as the “most effective single-issue lobbyist.” Tied for fifth place was SBAM’s President and CEO Rob Fowler.


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